Crumpets - The Warburtons secret.
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During the first Coronavirus lockdown of 2020, Warburtons gave away their crumpet recipe and issued a challenge to home bakers to turn out a crumpet as good as those sold by Warburtons.
Warburtons is synonymous with crumpets. OK, the major supermarkets produce their own but when it comes to the archetypal English crumpet, then the name 'Warburtons' must carry the standard.
Thomas and Ellen Warburton opened their grocery shop in Bolton in 1870. By 1876, Ellen, during a slump in the grocery market, had turned her hand to baking bread . A fortnight later, 'J Warburtons, Grocers' had become 'Warburtons the Bakers'. These days, they employ over 5,000 people and produce over 2 million products every day. They're still a family firm and still at Back'o'the'Bank House on Hereford Street in Bolton.
Crumpets have a long history. Seeming to originate in Wales and, at the same time, being part of the Anglo-Saxon diet, the 'crumpet' was a name given to a product that was baked on a griddle rather than in the communal village bread oven.
Bara-planc or griddle bread was part of the staple diet in Wales until the 19th century. The first recognisable crumpet-style recipe dates further back to 1769 when Elizabeth Raffald, who coincidentally, was housekeeper to the landed Warburtons of Arley Hall, Cheshire (not directly related to the bakers), wrote about the crumpet in her book, 'The Experienced English Housekeeper'.
Raffald refers to them as 'picklets' - a name deriving from the Welsh bara pyglyd, or 'pitchy bread' ('pitchy' as in dark or sticky). But, by the 17th century, thanks to the lexicographer, Randle Cotgrave, who compiled a Dictionarie of French and English Tongues in 1611, they were 'soft cakes of fine flour', barrapycleds or popelins.
The popularity of the crumpet spread, but they were always referred to as pikelets, a name still in use from the Midlands northwards, even today.
But where does the word 'crumpet' originate? There's a close similarity with the Welsh crempog which is a pancake and the fact that both are made from a batter links them even closer. Bretons have their krampouzh and the Cornish have their krampoth. But, like many words in English, this could easily be a red herring.
In 1883, a contributor to the Manchester City News column 'Notes and Queries', suggested that they were named after the metal ring that was used to contain the batter during cooking - it was locally referred to as a crampet. I'm tempted to throw my lot in with that as the most likely source.
By late Victorian times, the crumpet had ceased to be a hard griddled cake and was now a spongey battered product helped along by the use of bicarbonate of soda. Dorothy Hartley, who we first met when we made the Lancashire Bun Loaf (https://breadclub20.blogspot.com/2020/11/lancashire-bun-loaf.html), pinpointed the style of crumpet we now know and love as part of the heritage of the West Midlands.
Whatever you wish to take from this, it's clear that a crumpet is not a griddle cake, nor is it a drop scone, a pikelet, a muffin, a Scottish crumpet, an Irish crumpet or a pancake.
It's a crumpet! And this.....is the Warburton's recipe.
This makes 6 crumpets.
150 gms plain white flour
200 mls water (preferably filtered or basic still bottled water)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspon baking powder
1 teaspon instant dried yeast
- Add the flour, water and salt to a mixing bowl. Pick a large mixing bowl as your batter will expand at number 5 (below).
- Mix vigorously with a whisk - for at least 5 minutes - to create your crumpet batter. A mechanised whisk will save your arm!
- Mix a few mls of water into your dried yeast
- Add sugar, baking powder and yeast mixture to the bowl and mix for another 30 seconds until you have a definite batter
- Cover the mixing bowl and put it into a warm place for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes.......
|A Welsh pancake pan and a Butane picnic stove - the heat is a lot easier to adjust than using the electric stove.|
- Place a greased metal crumpet ring in the middle of a non-stick frying pan - or assemble non-stick crumpet rings in the pan.
- Pre-heat your frying pan on a medium-high setting
- Give the batter a stir to remove any large air bubbles
- Place 60 gm of the batter into a cup or small bowl or ladle
- Pour the batter into the ring
- Wait for approximately 4 minutes - if it's set, carefully lift the ring off the crumpet
- If the top is still a bit gooey, flip it over in the ring and continue for a few seconds
- Remove the crumpet from the pan and from the ring
- Cool on a wire rack
- Repeat the above until all your batter has been used
- Toast and enjoy with butter...
- always have a flat pan - and try and find one big enough to have a 'cooler' spot somewhere to allow the batter to set. If you can't, don't fill your pan with the rings, bake one or two, at the most, at a time.
- measure your mix - 60 gms at a time is sufficient.
- don't flip them until they have almost set, otherwise, you'll end up with a flat top.
- make sure you use cold water in the mix
- check the expiry date on your baking powder and yeast
- don't have your heat on too high. If you do, you'll cook, scorch and burn the bottom of the crumpet before the top is set
- don't be afraid to slightly undercook your crumpets. They'll finish off in the toaster or under the grill for breakfast
- Don't be disheartened if they don't look like the ones off the supermarket shelves. Commercial bakers are making thousands and thousands a day in a mechanised way. Shut your eyes, if necessary, and appreciate the taste!
|Slightly underdone - ready to pop under the grill or into the toaster breakfast tomorrow.|
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